”Alpha Man: The Brotherhood of Martin Luther King” reveals the little-known story of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s fraternity days as a member of the country’s first black fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, when he was a 23-year-old divinity student in Boston.
Produced by Rainforest Films for Black Entertainment Television (BET), the half-hour special, to be broadcast at 7 p.m. Eastern on Sunday, Aug. 28, was supposed to coincide with the much-anticipated official dedication of the Martin Luther King Memorial statue on the National Mall. But because of Hurricane Irene the dedication ceremonies have been postponed. The statue was scheduled to be dedicated on the 48th anniversary of the March on Washington and Dr. King’s “Dream” speech.
Dr. King’s APA frat brothers were instrumental in making the $120 million, 30 feet tall King Memorial a reality.
The special, co-executive produced by Rob Hardy and Will Packer, will feature never before seen footage and first-hand accounts about a part of King’s early life that few people know about.
“We did a lot of research and asked a lot of questions about this period in King’s life,” said Hardy. “We got first hand accounts of what happened during those times. We included information to show people what a fraternity is and information about Alpha Phi Alpha in case they didn’t know. This special will give an account of what Dr. King did when he was in the fraternity.”
Pausing, Hardy added,
“King was drawn to Alpha Phi Alpha because a lot of people who were influential in that day, including Paul Robeson, Thurgood Marshall, and Duke Ellington, were all Alphas.”
Hardy said that the special will include first hand accounts from King associates who knew King during the burgeoning civil rights movement, including when King was arrested in Montgomery and how other Alpha members raised the bail money to get him released from jail.
“We also have King speaking at the 50th anniversary of the fraternity, and that was the first and only time he spoke at an Alpha convention,” said Hardy. We have broadcast footage of that speech which has never been heard.”
Although Hardy said that King pledged Alpha Phi Alpha in 1952 and was proud to be a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, he said that the future civil rights leader downplayed his association in the fraternity.
“There’s not a lot of detail about King’s life in the fraternity and we spoke with Ambassador (Andrew) Young who said that that was deliberate. King never publicized that he was an Alpha man because at that time he didn’t want to create any more divisions between black people. He felt we were all in the same struggle so he didn’t want to create any more divisions where people viewed him as separate because he is in a fraternity or he’s an Alpha. He just wanted everybody to view him as, ‘We’re all common people on a mission for civil rights’…he was more about solidarity.”
Hardy said King’s fight for social justice greatly influenced his fraternity brothers.
“The Alphas began launching student sit-ins because they saw King speak at this convention. Because King spoke to the brotherhood, he inspired other brothers to do the same thing and to take a nonviolent approach towards civil rights.”
Actor and author Hill Harper serves as host and narrator of the production.
“Hill traveled to Boston, Atlanta, D. C. and Dayton to meet some of the people who actually knew Dr. King,”
Said Hardy, who also told us that Harper and Dianne Ashford served as producers on the project.